How Florida’s Marco Island Is Rebuilding After Facing the Center of Hurricane Irma (Video)
Visitors to Southern Florida have long cherished Marco Island for its beaches, natural beauty, and opportunities for fishing and boating, all while enjoying average temperatures in the 70s and warmer.
When Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday, the storm's powerful eyewall passed right through the island, ravaging this resort destination. Marco Island registered some of the strongest winds in the state, as gusts of 130 miles per hour whipped through the streets along with torrential rains that left 1-2 feet of standing water after the storm.
“San Marco Road looked like a river,” Police Chief Al Schettino told the Miami Herald.
The entire island was left to cope with flooding, power outages, and debris following the storm.
“We do not know the extent of physical damage, but it appears large, especially on the south end of the island,” Marco Island City Council Chairman Larry Honig told Naples Daily News.
The island is connected to mainland Florida via the Naples bridge, which was assessed and reopened for traffic Tuesday. Marco Island is home to just 16,500 residents, and between 3,000 and 5,000 of them decided to wait out the storm, according to the Naples Daily News. Only minor injuries have been reported.
Resorts and other tourist mainstays will be looking to get their operations up and running as soon as possible, aiming for a timeline of weeks rather than months, Amanda Cox, director of sales and marketing at JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, told Travel + Leisure.
The popular beachfront resort suffered no significant structural damage, and is working on clearing debris and getting utilities up and running.
Cox recounted how travelers began posting their favorite recollections of their time vacationing on the island on social media during the storm: “To me, the most encouraging thing is that all those memories center around that beautiful beach and the glorious ecosystem that makes Marco Island and the 10,000 everglades truly, truly special,” she said.
The Marriott plans to host rescue workers at the hotel as they all begin rebuilding the community that is cherished by locals and travelers alike.
“It really is paradise to people. It’s paradise without needing a passport,” she said. “And the emotional connection people feel to the island and to our resort in particular is one that I’ve never seen at any other property I’ve worked at.”